November 06, 2013

HIRONO TAKES TO SENATE FLOOR, CALLS TO END BUDGET CUTS THAT UNDERMINE OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AND HURT OUR ECONOMY

Washington, D.C. - Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to call for the end of harmful sequestration cuts.

“Just as a hollowed out force will struggle to meet mission requirements, a hollowed out workforce will struggle to compete in the global economy. These two things are tightly linked. That is why I urge my colleagues to support eliminating sequestration for both defense and non-defense programs,” said Hirono.

Watch the full speech here: http://youtu.be/wH8Ik6iRtmQ.

Read Hirono’s remarks, as prepared:

Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the impact of sequestration on our national security and the economy.

As a nation our military strength is directly supported by our economic strength—and sequestration has done substantial harm to both. This senseless policy has put our military in a very bad position, and undermines our national security strategies.

In Fiscal Year 2013, the Defense Department’s budget was reduced by approximately $43 billion due to sequestration, or a roughly 8 percent cut to each defense account. These cuts have undermined our military readiness and reduced necessary maintenance. They have also undermined long-term investments in modernizing our forces.

Our military leadership has been clear about the impact of sequestration in numerous hearings before Congress.

All of the Services have raised concerns about the Budget Control Act’s sequestration and the post-sequester budget caps. In particular, we have heard how these cuts undermine their ability to carry out the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance or DSG.

The DSG outlines the strategic priorities of the Department of Defense. The DSG reflects the input of a wide range of military stakeholders. The DSG describes the security challenges we are likely to face, as well as the resources needed to meet key mission requirements.

The 2012 DSG sets as a central goal the transition of, “the U.S. defense enterprise from an emphasis on today’s wars to preparing for future challenges.”

The Budget Control Act’s cuts undermine that goal. As a result, the Services will have to reduce personnel levels, delay or scrap necessary equipment modernization and acquisition, and reduce training and readiness activities.

In recent testimony before the House of Representatives, Army General Ray Odierno noted that the Army’s personnel will shrink by 18 percent in the next seven years. This includes a 26 percent reduction in active Army personnel, 12 percent reduction in Army National Guards, and a 9 percent reduction in the Army Reserve.

In discussing these reductions, General Odierno said: “In my view, these reductions will put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation.”

While I hope that we will not have to engage in such an operation in the near future, this reduction in our capacity to do so is very troubling.

In addition, Navy Admiral Jonathan Greenert expressed serious concern about cuts to operations and maintenance and investment accounts. These cuts threaten the Navy’s readiness. He explained that the Navy would likely have to cancel necessary maintenance, which reduces the useful life of ships and aircraft. In addition, the Navy’s shipbuilding program could be seriously affected. This means a submarine, a littoral combat ship, and afloat forward-staging base could be on the chopping block.

Hawaii is home to the Pacific Command, whose area of responsibility encompasses half the globe.

This enormous area of responsibility is home to some of the most dynamic and fastest growing economies in the world. The Asia-Pacific nations are huge markets with growing middle classes of consumers for American goods and services. However, it is also home to some of the most serious security threats we face.

It is an area where the U.S.’s economic, strategic, and security interests face many challenges—but also many opportunities.

As part of our nation’s recognition that we need to engage more in this region, President Obama has committed to a rebalance of our strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, described this Asia-Pacific rebalance by saying, “It’s about “Three Mores”—More interest, more engagement, and from the military perspective more quality assets and quality interaction.”

For the Asia-Pacific rebalance to provide the long-term benefits to our nation we need to be fully committed. This requires the transition, training, and support of U.S. military personnel and assets to the region.

However, this important initiative is undermined by the budget cuts our military is facing. We cannot support regional peace and stability with insufficient resources and personnel. Yet, this is the reality if we fail to address planned budget cuts.

These are just some examples of how our ability to effectively protect U.S. interests and security are being impacted by the Budget Control Act.

We also know that reductions in defense spending impact the nation’s economy. For example, Department of Defense employees across the country—including thousands in Hawaii—have faced furloughs this year. That is like a pay cut for many families at a time when they can least afford them.

Some will argue that all we need to do is to give the Department of Defense the authority to transfer funds between accounts. I strongly disagree.

Congress can address these cuts to national security, while also strengthening our overall economy. How can we do this? By simply eliminating sequester and funding the whole government at the level assumed by the Senate’s budget resolution.

Sequestration, like the recent government shutdown, were self-inflicted wounds to our economy. The shutdown was like a sudden economic heart attack. But sequestration is like death by a thousand cuts to our national defense, our science and research enterprise, and programs on which our communities rely.

I have spoken a great deal about the impact of sequestration on our military.

However, the substantial cuts sustained to our education, research and development, and infrastructure are equally as damaging. These are programs that support an educated and productive workforce, improve the flow of commerce, and support those in our communities in the greatest need.

Just as a hollowed out force will struggle to meet mission requirements, a hollowed out workforce will struggle to compete in the global economy. These two things are tightly linked. That is why I urge my colleagues to support eliminating sequestration for both defense and non-defense programs.

The Financial Times recently reported that U.S. public investment has dropped to 3.6 percent of GDP. This is well below the 5 percent we have averaged since after World War II. These cuts not only undermine our long-term national security strategy, but also our long-term competitiveness and economic growth.

Without a strong economy, we cannot sustain the investments we need in a strong national defense.

According to Macroeconomic Advisors, spending cuts enacted since 2010 have reduced GPD by 0.7 percentage points. This reduction in our economy has raised unemployment by 0.8 percent—or 1.2 million jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported that we could give our economy a significant boost simply by eliminating sequestration. In fact, CBO found that if Congress had enacted legislation last summer to cancel the 2013 and 2014 sequester, the economy would have nearly 1 million more jobs by next year. Our economy would also grow nearly a full percentage point faster.

To put this in perspective, without sequestration, our economy would be nearly back on track to where it was before the Great Recession.

We all recognize that a strong economy is the backbone of our strength as a nation. In order to get back to full strength, we need to get more people back to work. The more people who are working, the more productive our economy is. The more productive our economy, the more opportunity there is for people to achieve the American Dream.

Getting people back to work also means less people have to rely on safety net programs, and more tax revenue comes in without raising any tax rates. By reducing spending and increasing revenue this way, we are helping stabilize our fiscal situation.

A robust economy ensures that our nation has the capacity to meet our commitments and support our vital priorities. This means that we don’t have to choose between a strong national defense and investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation.

We can—and must—do both.

The place to start is with ending sequestration and revising the Budget Control Act caps. This modest policy change will pay dividends for our economy, and in turn will strengthen our national security.